The Premier League leaders have a date with the title favourites on Saturday – buckle your seatbelts for Manchester City versus Arsenal at the Etihad.
This match couldn’t be better poised: City boast the best home record in the English top-flight this season, while the Gunners’ away form is unparalleled.
Manuel Pellegrini’s charges have won all seven domestic games on home soil this term, scoring 29 and conceding just two goals in the process. They are adventurous offensively and frugal defensively.
Meanwhile, the Londoners’ sole defeat on the road in the league during the present campaign was against City’s neighbours United at Old Trafford. They have netted 14 and conceded just five times on rival turf.
GUNNERS’ TITLE CREDENTIALS TO BE FULLY TESTED
Arsenal head into this match in a commanding position – they have a five-point cushion at the top of the Premiership tree. However, while this fixture will not decide the title by any means, the result will certainly have a great deal of significance.
Indeed, this represents the Gunners’ stiffest test domestically so far this season. And, despite their consistency – Arsenal have won 23 of their 34 league matches since January 1 – there are plenty of Thomas’s still doubting whether they truly possess the requisite durability to go the distance.
Last weekend, Arsene Wenger’s men had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Everton at the Emirates. In many ways the Toffees employed the perfect strategy: frustrate the Gunners by keeping possession and, when they do win the ball, get physical. The darker side of that strategy wasn’t pretty, but ultimately it proved effective.
In midweek, Arsenal appeared to have Napoli where they wanted them in their final Champions League group game, nullifying the Italians’ attacks with aplomb and threatening on the counter. They did, however, implode during the last 20 minutes and eventually lost 2-0.
Fortunately, that result was enough to see the London outfit through to the last-16. But for Arsenal fans the final 20 minutes of that match will be worryingly reminiscent of the way Wenger’s side have capitulated overall in recent seasons. Defeat on Saturday will compound fears that the trophy famine will continue.
SERGIO AGUERO – THE GOAL MACHINE
With 18 goals to his name in all competitions so far this season, few strikers are operating at quite the same level as Sergio Aguero at present.
The Argentinean was rested, along with Yaya Toure and Vincent Company, for the Citizens’ midweek Champions League victory against Bayern Munich in Germany. That trio are all expected to be recalled to the starting XI for the visit of Arsenal.
Aguero is bound to be a popular choice in the first goalscorer market at 9/2 with Ladbrokes. He has drawn first blood in three of the last four matches in which he has been involved, and the visitors’ back four will need to be alert from the moment the whistle is blown – the 25-year-old has scored in 10 minutes or less in three of his last seven appearances for City.
MAN CITY V ARSENAL BETTING ADVICE
City and Arsenal boast the highest attempts-to-goals ratios in the Premier League this term – both in the region of 20 per cent – and many will, quite understandably, be expecting plenty of lunchtime net-bulging at the Etihad on Saturday.
However, if their recent head-to-head is anything to go by those willing goals galore may be left disappointed. Indeed, the last six meetings between Man City and the Gunners have yielded an overall total of just seven goals – or, in other words – an average of just over one per game.
While City and Arsenal are habitually attack-minded outfits, this is a game that neither will want to lose. The desire not to be beaten is perhaps stronger than the desire to win when these two Premiership giants collide, and I very much doubt that there will be any unnecessary risk-taking from either side.
Consequently, it may pay to sympathise with statistics and opt for under 2.5 goals at a standout 5/4 with Bet Victor.